Alpine Transhumance

26 Sep

26 September 2019.

It seems I’ve been waiting until the cows come home to see the transhumance here in Lauterbrunnen, or at least the ceremonial descent from summer pasture to the valley.  Now and then we’d see a farmer going down the street with two or three cows — you can hear them coming for a kilometer or so thanks to the bells — but we’ve either been out on the mountain trails or arrived too late in the year to see what we saw today.

We were advised to be near the Hotel Silberhorn at noon to witness the parade. The cows were arriving from pasture at 1500 meters/4900 feet at Winteregg, a path of about 4 miles.


The ceremonial transhumance involves gigantic cowbells and decorative headwear…for the cows. I hope they weren’t forced to wear this gear the entire 4 miles, although that might explain why a couple of them looked so grumpy.

Cow parade

The cows round the curve coming into town by the Hotel Silberhorn, under the Grutschalp gondola. Look at the size of that bell!

End of cow parade

Trailing to cows through town, clean up vehicle and crew following.

Cow Parade

Coming around by the church, traffic is stopped on the main thoroughfare.

Cow Parade

Passing the church, the cows are coming into our neighborhood. We took a shortcut so we could meet them down by the river. This is just 150 meters from our temporary home.

Cow with head dress

One cow gets out of the parade when she spots something tasty after walking through the town.

Cow mooing

As the ceremonial cows pass on the street below, a small herd overlooks the scene and one cow seems to say “What about us?”

Hotel Silberhorn staff greeted the herders and onlookers bearing trays with small cups of wine. A nice touch!

16 Responses to “Alpine Transhumance”

  1. kathyfromhouston September 28, 2019 at 14:15 #

    I love your pictures of this ritual, Laurel! I am sure it was delightful to watch. I do, however, feel bad for the cows. Those bells and headdresses look heavy and uncomfortable for the neck! Thanks for sharing your travels. You inspire me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel September 29, 2019 at 01:20 #

      Thanks, Kathy! Thought about you in Ortisei and your upcoming stay. It was hard for us to leave after 2.5 weeks!

      I agree: the cows must dislike this very much. There was some mooing…


  2. pagebypage14 September 26, 2019 at 23:59 #

    What fun and so interesting! The headwear…what? Lovely word, transhumance, and parade. It must have been a thrill to see. Grier

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel September 27, 2019 at 20:24 #

      The headwear is a hoot, isn’t it? We were very lucky as we missed the “transhumanza” in the Val Gardena: weather caused them to cancel the event (although I am sure the cows still come down). Mostly the farmers use trucks and trailers these days for the small herd so it is lovely to see some preservation of tradition.


  3. Gayle Seely September 26, 2019 at 15:52 #

    So glad you got to see this! It is nice to see the remnants of centuries old traditions right in the midst of 21st century madness. Not sure the cows care, but then they would not want to be stuck up there when the winter weather hits, either. Charming. It could cause one to think that perhaps we – the people – will in fact survive and someday in the distant future they will have history lessons about our turbulent times and try to explain the concepts of climate change and of “trump” to little school boys. Who will, of course, much like the cows, not care at all.


    • Laurel September 26, 2019 at 23:04 #

      I would like to escape reality and live this simply. Sigh.


  4. Audrey Crocker September 26, 2019 at 15:50 #

    I enjoyed seeing all the Cows going to the Meadow I am sure it would sound great with all the bells.


    • Laurel September 26, 2019 at 23:04 #

      It was a cacaphony! One cow with two youngsters was mooing loudly as well. They pulled her and the babies out of the parade once they got to town. Too stressful for them, I guess.


  5. Marcia Kakiuchi September 26, 2019 at 12:09 #

    That cow headgear is so colorful and lovely! What a fun adventure and the cows look so healthy.


  6. Jane Norton September 26, 2019 at 09:03 #


    Mobile 970-769-5260


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Janet September 26, 2019 at 08:33 #

    Absolutely wonderful! Looks so peaceful. We’re very happy for you guys!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. chloe erkenbrecher September 26, 2019 at 06:32 #

    We saw this in Austria a couple of times. I love the headgear they wear. My husband was given a drink by one of the herders and he said it was about as strong as anything he had ever had. Very nice photos and I am happy that you were able to see this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel September 26, 2019 at 07:56 #

      I’ll bet those herders have some excellent schnapps! I suspect the cows really hate this event, though. Leaving the nice summer pasture, wearing those big bells and ridiculous “hats!” I wonder if they move a little more quickly in summer when headed to the pasture? I’d love to be along for the whole hike.


      • jonnietootling September 26, 2019 at 13:36 #

        Well the cows may not like doing this — but I should think this would be absolutely DELIGHTFUL to watch. I mean, if Texans will travel to Ft. Worth to see 6 longhorns pretend to be on a Chisholm Trail roundup, then surely we would get excited about a whole herd of cattle coming through town. (P.S. No way would longhorns be willing to wear flowered hats).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Laurel September 26, 2019 at 23:07 #

          I noticed none of the cattle were doing this…Only the cows. Here’s are small, too. 15 to 18 cows, limited by size of pasture and amount of hay the farmer can put by for the winter.


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